It took two quickfire points to convert defeat into victory on the opening day against Cavan and they almost let the entirety of an eight-point lead slip from their fingers in Galway before succumbing to a near identical bout of complacency here in Portlaoise.
Eight points was again the margin after substitute Padraig McNulty finished a penetrating and direct move through the Laois rearguard with a low shot to the home net after 57 minutes. It looked a question then of just how wide the eventual margin would be. No-one could have predicted at that point that it would take a smothering save by Tyrone goalkeeper Michael O’Neill from Niall Donoher’s injury-time shot to prevent the home side from taking what would have been a larcenous share of the spoils.
There were mitigating circumstances for Tyrone’s failure to push on, not least the loss to injury of wing-forward Conor Meyler and midfielder Colm Cavanagh, both through injury, after 50 and 56 minutes respectively. Both had been industrious and effective.
It was nonetheless careless of them to leave the door open for a Laois side that went 21 minutes without a score at one point, a spell that straddled both sides of the interval, so it was no surprise to hear Harte put Tyrone’s perfect start to Division 2 into perspective afterwards.
“It is a perfect start in terms of results,” he said, “but I would say there is plenty to be improved upon in terms of performance.”
Still, they are in a healthy place.
Sean Cavanagh, for a start, looked rusty in what was his first start of the campaign. He will undoubtedly get better as his fitness builds and the pitches become firmer even if the surface and the conditions were both pristine yesterday.
For their part, Laois were helped by the return of four senior men as they chased a second league victory. Conor Meredith, Brendan Quigley and Colm Begley were making their seasonal bows while John O’Loughlin was back from injury.
Tyrone started well, but Laois hit their stride for long enough to take a 0-t to 0-4 lead through the 23rd minute having temporarily discovered the benefits of striking forward through the middle with greater acceleration.
Their next purple patch wouldn’t come until the last 13 minutes with Donie Kingston finding his groove and claiming four of the game’s last five points to leave Harte shuffling nervously on the sideline and puffing his cheeks out with relief come the final whistle.
They went half an hour at one point without registering a failed shot on goal and they were at their best in the third quarter. Unlike Laois, they regularly committed the necessary numbers to attack and were rewarded with a string of superb scores.
D Kingston (0-5, 3f); J O’Loughlin (0-3); G Walsh (0-2); K Lillis, R O’Connor and P Kingston (all 0-1); P Cahillane (0-1f).
M Donnelly (0-3); P McNulty (1-0); D McCurry (0-3, 1f); R O’Neill (0-2, 2f); T McCann and M Sludden (0-2); M Bradley, B Tierney (both 0-1).
G Brody; R Kehoe, C Begley, P Cotter; D Strong, D Sealer, G Dillon; B Quigley, J O’Loughlin; N Donoher, G Walsh, C Meredith; P Cahillane, D Kingston, C Begley.
D O’Connor for Cotter (39); R O’Connor for Walsh (47); E Costello for Meredith (52); G O’Reilly for Dillon (56); P Kingston for Cahillane (59); A Farrell for Strong (63).
M O’Neill; C McCarron, J McMahon, HP McGeary; T McCann, A McCrory, B Tierney; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; N Sludden, M Bradley, C Meyler; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, R O’Neill.
J Monroe for Tierney (48); R Donnelly for Meyler and P Harte for Bradley (both 50); P McNulty for C Cavanagh (56); L Brennan for McCurry (58); P Hampsey for McMahon (60).
P O’Sullivan (Kerry).